Sacked minister launches astonishing attack on Boris Johnson's 'distrustful, awful' government

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3 min read
Johnny Mercer and Boris Johnson pictured in 2019. (Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Johnny Mercer and Boris Johnson pictured in 2019. (Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)

Sacked minister Johnny Mercer has said Boris Johnson’s government is the “most distrustful, awful environment I’ve ever worked in”.

In an extraordinary attack on Johnson’s administration 24 hours after he left it, Mercer claimed “almost nobody” in the government tells the truth.

His diatribe, in an interview on Times Radio, didn’t end there.

It also extended to the “cesspit” of Westminster, which he said is populated by “children” who are “frankly unemployable elsewhere”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, raises a pint watched by Defence Minister Johnny Mercer (right) as he meets with military veterans at the Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Johnny Mercer, right, on the campaign trail with Boris Johnsion ahead of the 2019 general election. (Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)

Mercer wrote a letter of resignation from his role as veterans minister on Tuesday, having expressed frustration at a lack of progress on legislation to protect British veterans who served during the Troubles from prosecution.

Downing Street said it accepted the resignation, but Mercer claimed he was instead “relieved of my responsibilities in government”.

While not attacking Johnson personally in the Times Radio interview on Wednesday – Mercer said he is a “friend” – he rounded on his former ministerial colleagues.

“He should expect his ministers, I think, to be as committed to the manifesto as he is. And if I’m made to feel like I’m the last man in the room who’s willing to fulfil our manifesto commitments, there’s something wrong. We reached that point, so I left.”

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He went on: “This is the most distrustful, awful environment I’ve ever worked in, in government. Almost nobody tells the truth, is what I’ve worked out over the last 36 hours.

“I don’t think anyone really can get on their high horse about trust and ethics and all the rest of it in politics, because as far as I’m concerned, most of it is a bit of a cesspit.”

Referring to the lack of progress in his quest to protect veterans who served in Northern Ireland, Mercer, a former Army officer, said: "I'm accountable to the public and I'm accountable to these veterans, as their veterans minister. So what anyone in Westminster thinks about it, I couldn't really care less.

"I'm accountable to these people as their minister and that would have been the right way to do it [resigning at the House of Commons despatch box].

"As it happens, how Westminster works, there's a lot of children running around Westminster, frankly unemployable elsewhere, who think it's all a game: 'We want to spike his little plan.'

“It is really pathetic and I'm just sorry to see people who I did respect 24/36 hours ago play their role in that and think it's all about me. It's never about me and at some point people will grow up and realise this."

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Mercer had been heavily involved in the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, which was being considered by MPs on Wednesday as it goes through its final stages in Parliament.

The legislation was developed in response to legal claims made after operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but does not cover incidents in Northern Ireland.

Johnson has said "we are committed to doing more over the coming months, including for those who have served in Northern Ireland".

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